On a cool Saturday morning earlier this month, some Harker Heights teenagers climbed out of bed at 6 a.m. to volunteer their time at the Chamber of Commerce Stompede 5K.
Not exactly what most teenagers want to do on the weekends, when sleeping late is a coveted marathon event in itself. But these teenagers are different — they’re Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce Junior Ambassadors.
“They were amazing at the 5K,” said Gina Pence, membership director. “They were a huge part of making it successful. They helped tremendously with the kids’ fun run too.”
The Chamber of Commerce established the Junior Ambassadors program in 2005 as a way to connect high school students with the community through service projects. The program has always been successful, with about 20 students getting involved every year, Junior Ambassadors Director Joyce Hodson said.
This year, a record crowd of 52 teens turned out for the first meeting of the year on Sept. 10.
Hodson attributes the enthusiastic attendance to the booth the ambassadors had this year at the Harker Heights High School student readiness event.
“We passed out lots of applications and really talked it up,” she said.
The Ambassadors perform several community service projects throughout the year, like Christmas Bake and Take for police and fire departments and Lunch Lady Valentines for cafeteria workers. They also volunteer at the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and the Chamber’s community Halloween and Easter events.
“We try to keep the program active because the students will support something they create,” Hodson said. “Our retention rate is very good; if they sign up as a sophomore, they will stay until they graduate.”
Cecilia Martinez, 17, was vice president of the Junior Ambassadors last year and plans to run for president this year. The Harker Heights senior got involved with the program for the community service. “I never really did community service before, so I thought this would be beneficial to the community and myself,” she said.
Her favorite events are the Halloween Hooplah and the Easter egg hunt. Aside from the fun, she recognizes the long-term benefits of her involvement with the ambassadors.
“It helps me develop communication skills … you have to interact with others and you need that in the job world,” Martinez said. “It helps you know how to act around different age groups, and you develop responsibility because you are given a task and you have to complete it.”
The Junior Ambassadors meet at 6:30 p.m. on the first Monday of every month during the school year at the Harker Heights Activity Center, 400 Indian Trail. Hodson said the meetings are open to all students.
“Come out and check us out,” she said.
For more information, call Hodson at (254) 319-8910.
Contact Kristi Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7548